Vanilla Caffè: rescuing the slogan “Those who know, love it”

Published by on behalf of the sprint master Alessandro Ng

Rethinking the customer experience to rescue a brand identity lost over the years

Vanilla Caffè is a Brazilian coffee shop chain with more than 20 franchises scattered throughout the country. The chain was created by a group of business people who saw an under-exploited slice of market share in their love of coffee — the specialty coffee market.

One of the first coffee houses in São Paulo

Vanilla was one of the first coffee houses in São Paulo to offer an environment where people can gather, use the internet, and relax while enjoying special blends of coffee. This happened way before Starbucks and other competitors entered the country. In the current environment, coffee shops are fighting tooth and nail for every single customer. Vanilla realized that some of its values were lost over the past few years which resulted in unsatisfied customers.

Our challenge was to help the higher-ups and franchise partners rethink the entire customer experience, analyzing the service chain and identifying new business opportunities with the goal of rescuing the brand’s identity. Our team of designers worked with customers and the Vanilla team to design a strategy capable of making their slogan — “those who know, love it” — make sense again.

Not all users like coffee

It’s incredible what can happen when we work in such rich and inspiring environments as coffee shops. Vanilla’s regulars were truly passionate about the brand and wanted to help re-energize it at any cost. The franchise and franchisees were deeply involved in the entire process of redesigning their customers’ experience.

Our initial findings came from research, which brought us to the start of coffee consumption at the beginning of the 9th century in Ethiopia. We came to understand the origin of coffee houses and their importance throughout history in promoting connections between people.

When interviewing consumers and observing Vanilla’s regulars, we discovered different consumption behaviors that led us to identify the extreme users of this service. They’re the people who don’t necessarily drink coffee, but frequent coffee shops to work, have meetings, meet up with friends, or simply take a break to nap during the day. This is how we fully immersed ourselves in these mental models to finally draw up the current consumer journey and to see what wasn’t working. This was a very important moment in the sprint because we were able to identify new business opportunities.

During the co-creation and brainstorming sessions with customers, the quantity of solutions generated for problems that occur during the entire user experience was astonishing. They came up with solutions related to customer service, environment, visual communication, new products, and payment among others that could be tested through quick and cheap prototypes. We also mapped the intentions and principles behind the services that would be used to guide all strategic decisions that the brand would make from now on. These directives are currently part of the vision of how the Vanilla Caffè service experience should be.

The insights were so rich and relevant during the process that the franchisees and managers began changing the business before the sprint was even over. This demonstrates the enormous impact that a service design sprint can have on a brand that wants to innovate in a way that is strategically advantageous for the business.

A new customer experience

In the end we created a list of 47 new solutions that range from customer service, new product offerings, infrastructure, environment, and marketing strategies to recruitment and employee training in addition to corroborating some solutions that are already in use in stores today.

“The results were very relevant. We believe that we’ll be able to start implementing the solutions immediately in order to rescue the brand identity that was lost over the years.”

Maurício Freire, CEO of Vanilla Caffe


  • Differentiating products by region and customization of spaces should be one of the of the chain’s guiding principles.
  • Different types of users were mapped in accordance with different behaviors that people exhibit in coffee shops. Each of these archetypes are now part of Vanilla’s customer service strategy. Each employee needs to know who these customers are and personalize service accordingly.
  • Having the team, franchise, and franchisees working together allowed them to notice the importance of coming together to construct a stronger and more competitive brand.
  • Even people who don’t consume coffee are café users. Different interactions were created to serve these people.
  • The Vanilla chain has a line of exclusive products that strengthen its identity.